Beat the Clock

Why do disasters happen at the last minute, when I’m on a tight schedule and need to go somewhere?  They often occur when I’m either leaving to go to work or leaving work to come home.  If only I worked from home!  The latest incident is an example of how a manageable mishap can snowball into madness.

A few minutes before the five o’clock departure time at work, a co-worker walked up with a document.  It was not a routine document, so the co-worker wanted to put a note on it with special instructions for me.  She looked around for a notepad.  As it was the end of the workday, most items of that nature were put away, but she spotted a small notepad on what I call my designated dirty shelf, the shelf where I put objects that have been contaminated.  I was distracted because I had an important phone call to make, and before I knew what had happened, she took the dirty notepad and put it down on my desk with the document.  I was dismayed, as this not only created a difficult situation for me, it delayed my phone call.  Did it stop there?  It never does.  Although the co-worker had intended to put a note on the document, she had come to my desk with neither a notepad nor a pen.  She asked for a pen.  My pens had been put away in a drawer for the day, but I did have a pen on the designated dirty shelf.  I debated for a moment, but decided against getting the dirty pen because I didn’t want to soil my fingers.  Yet, the other option, retrieving a pen from the drawer, also meant I would have to touch something undesirable.  I never open that drawer by the handle unless I have a tissue because people are continually coming into my cubicle and leaning against it.  The lesser of the evils was to use one fingertip to open the drawer and take out the pen with the other hand, which I did.  The co-worker then wrote the note and departed, but I was left with a fingertip to clean before making my phone call.

I decontaminated my finger and made my call, and all was well.  That wouldn’t be much of a story!  No, while I was still talking on the phone, the same co-worker came back to my desk and placed yet another document on top of the already filthy one.  The situation was compounded.  Now I had two unwanted documents to handle, besides a desk to clean.  I noticed that the pen that the co-worker had used was resting precariously close to a stack of clean papers, and I moved the clean papers over a few inches to avoid an accident.  I had to ask the person I was conversing with on the phone to hold for a couple of minutes while I mitigated the situation a bit.  Part of the second paper that had been placed on top of the first one was not touching the dirty paper.  While I was still able to touch that part of it, I sent it on to its eventual destination and did the data entry that was necessary for it.

I apologized to the person on the phone, and within a few minutes, the call was over.  I had discovered that the original contaminated paper was one that could be reprinted, so all I had to do was dispose of it and write a note to remind myself to reprint it the next day and remember the special instructions for it.  I picked up a pen to do so, and I realized too late that it was the one the co-worker had used!  In my haste to leave the office, I picked up the first pen I saw, forgetting that it was no longer clean.  Now I had a hand to clean, not to mention several other small tasks to do before I could leave.  A simple handwashing at the sink wasn’t going to be sufficient, so I hurriedly sprayed my fingers with alcohol and wiped them dry with napkins several times.  After I was done with that, I went to the sink in the break room and washed my hands with soap.

I still had to lock cabinets and shut down my computer when I got back to my desk.  I walked out at 5:02 with the supervisors tapping their feet.  They weren’t literally tapping their feet, but they do get impatient.  I rushed out, not quite beating the clock, but successfully meeting my challenge.



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